Today’s big question

How the Netherlands anti-lockdown movement turned violent

Bombing of Covid test centre near Amsterdam follows widespread protests in January

A pipe bomb explosion at a Dutch Covid testing centre has raised fears that the string of violent anti-lockdown protests and incidents in recent months is far from over.

The crude homemade device blew out windows at a drive-through test centre in the town of Bovenkarspel, 40 miles north of Amsterdam, The Sun reports. Police sealed off the area until explosives experts could examine the site before declaring it safe. 

The Netherlands has seen high levels of resistance to Covid lockdown measures, with riots raging for three days across 10 cities in January during which hundreds of protesters were arrested. Three people, including a teenager, were arrested after an arson attack on a test centre in the fishing village of Urk. 

The riots were initially viewed as a response to the introduction of a 9pm-4.30am curfew, which was the first restriction of its kind since the “stay at home” order imposed by the Nazi occupation during the Second World War, the BBC reported. However, Prime Minister Mark Rutte dismissed the explanation at the time, condemning the riots as “criminal violence”. 

Organising mainly on social media apps, the rioters included “far-right extremists, hooligans, Covid-19 deniers and political protesters”, according to Euronews. Dr Jelle van Buuren, an expert in security issues and conspiracy theories at the University of Leiden, told the site: “There is a connection [between the protesters] and that is distrust in the government, hate against the government, and even more broadly, hate and distrust when it comes to all sorts of societal institutions.” 

As has been seen in the UK, the country’s efforts to impose Covid restrictions have also been met with resistance from far-right figures, with Geert Wilders, the leader of the right-wing Party for Freedom, claiming the curfew was “a sign of utter impotence and panic” from the government.

The involvement of criminal gangs in the violence has also not been ruled out. The Netherlands has seen high levels of “open gang warfare” in recent years, with a “huge chunk” of Europe’s cocaine now travelling through ports in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, Vice says.

“And this mafia invasion, along with the subsequent violence, has sparked very real fears that the region is becoming something of a narco-state,” the site adds.

The mafia has been closely involved in stirring up protests against lockdown measures in Italy. Experts say coronavirus restrictions are “harming their business” due to “increased police checks and closures affecting their ability to demand extortion payments and leading to reduced drug sales revenues”, Politico says.

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